Trail Run Project Logo

Backcountry Camping Trail



1.7 mile 2.8 kilometer point to point
100% Runnable


Ascent: 18' 5 m
Descent: -13' -4 m
High: 3,979' 1,213 m
Low: 3,966' 1,209 m


Avg Grade: 0% (0°)
Max Grade: 1% (0°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Brian Smith

A shorter alternative to Alkali Flat Trail, this loop offers a similar adventure in the dunes.

Brian Smith

Features Views · Wildflowers

Visitor passes are $5 for adults and are valid for six days. Except for December 25, White Sands is open year round. Park hours vary throughout the year, generally from 8 am to 6 pm. Dunes Drive is occasionally closed due to missile testing at the adjacent range, blocking access to the trail. Weather closures occur on occasion as well. Hours and closure information can be found here.

Runner Notes

While the elevation gain and loss on this Trail is minimal - no more than fifty feet up or down at any given dune - running on sand is very demanding. Expect to add a minute or two onto typical mile times.

Remember that sand is hard on shoes. It's abrasive, it gets into every little part, it's hard to clean out, it stiffens everything up. Bring an older pair if possible.

Pack out everything you bring, including anything that your dog may leave behind. Refuse and biowaste doesn't degrade well in the desert, as there's very little water to break it down.


The Backcountry Loop is most commonly used by backpackers who want to spend the night in the dunes and under the stars. That said, it is also open to guests that are looking for a shorter run than the Alkali Flat Trail through the heart of the dunes.

The trail is approximately 2.2 miles round-trip and is fairly strenuous as it meanders up and down over the dunes. The average completion time for the trail is roughly 1.5 hours.

Flora & Fauna

As expected, plant and animal life is sparse in the rough environment of White Sands. Desert grasses and shrubs take hold in some areas, with roots strong enough to create columns of sand as the dunes shift around them. Mesquite trees grow in some of the flatlands.

A surprising variety of animals live in White Sands. Beetles, snakes, and lizards are the most common and aren't hard to find. Hawks soar overhead, and owls can be found hunting prey. Mice and several types of foxes make their home here as well. Larger predators, like coyotes and bobcats, are not unheard of.

One especially unique feature to the area are species of mice, insects, and lizards who have evolved white coloration to camouflage them against the gypsum dunes. These animals are endemic to White Sands and aren't found anywhere else in the world.

Run this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow runners know what's here.


Rate This Trail

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In



Trail Ratings

  3.6 from 5 votes


  3.6 from 5 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Trail Rankings


in New Mexico


6 Views Last Month
418 Since Jan 26, 2016



Looking west sky before the sunrise.
Nov 29, 2017 near Holloma…, NM
One of the campsites just after sunset. San Andres Mountains in the background.
Nov 29, 2017 near Holloma…, NM
White Sands National Monument, NM.
Mar 24, 2016 near Holloma…, NM
White Sands NM - Backcountry Camping Loop trail
Jan 26, 2016 near Holloma…, NM
Beginning of trail
Jun 9, 2018 near Holloma…, NM
View of Dunes
Jun 9, 2018 near Holloma…, NM


Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running